Spock's Beard

Obscure Star Trek Reference + Worn-Out Copy of The Yes Album = Instant Groupies!
*special introductory paragraph!
*The Light
*Beware of Darkness
*The Kindness Of Strangers
*Day For Night
*Don't Try This At Home: Live
*Feel Euphoria
*Spock's Beard

Every once in a while, Metal Blade Records gets a really high temperature and in their delusion accidentally sign a band that plays light progressive pop. This is EXACTLY what happened when they signed Cannibal Corpse, but luckily that band was kind enough to offer to change their sound. But then it happened AGAIN! Spock's Beard was the result. Named after an obscure Star Trek episode or movie or Leonard Nimoy album or some CRAP, the band was led by the Morse Brothers, who spoke to each other only in a special "Morse Code." HAHAHHAH!!!HA HAHAHAHAHAH! ! ! HAHAHAHAH HHOOOHOHOHOHO!!HOHH!OOHHOOO!OOOOOOOOOOO! No, but let's get back to my PowerPoint presentation. Spock's Beard sound like Yes, but with a mid-80s pop singer singing for them. Trevor Rabin? No no no, I mean like John Waite or John Parr or Rick Springfield. A real big "Look at me SIIIING, little girl!" voice that can come across as pretty corny when he's trying too hard to be taken seriously. And the Yes thing is not limited to one period in Yes history. At their best, Spock's Beard mix the booming bass/high-pitched organ sound of early Yes with the long as heck progressive music Yes with the 80s radio-friendly rock Yes right on through to their present day smooth beautiful moody relaxed dense pop music. Unfortunately, at their worst, Spock's Beard has a penchant for writing overdramatic "aims-too-high-and-misses" Styx-style "progressive" material. Even more unfortunately, the band's leader/singer/songwriter Neal Morse quit the band in late 2002 because God told him to. This actually occurred only a few weeks after I interviewed him for this very same site! (www.markprindle.com!) Check it out! He TOTALLY could have given me an exclusive sneak peek advance on his plans to quit, but just like a Christian, he FUCKED ME UP THE ASS!!!!! The rest of Spock's Beard decided to continue without Neal, figuring that surely their fans were never into the band because of the songwriting and vocals.

The Light - Metal Blade 1994
Rating = 3

Yeah, more like The SHIGHT, if you ask me! Heh ehheh. (*Gives self five*) "What/makes a dream/So very different from/any other dream?/Where is that straight line/That I can hold up to the light and say "NO! This is not right! This does not stand up.... in the light." Thus begins the most elaborate Yes tribute album in himstory. Unfortunately for the cause of all that is good and right in this world, this very same intro sounds straight out of a big 42nd Street piano production musical. Sure, it then immediately segues into The Yes Album II, but you just know the overblown show tune style is going to return, because nobody's going to open their debut album with 45 seconds of wide-eyed Billy Joel-style Broadway crap unless they're pretty strongly committed to the embracement of pansy music.

And return is what it does. Over and over again for the next hour. Three of the four songs are more than 12 minutes long and comprised of multiple parts that have nothing at all in common with each other. The loud "rockin'" parts are every bit as tough as Kansas, merging with acoustic breaks, jazz constructions and embarrassing nerdy singer-songwriter piano bits to create (as I mentioned above) a full-on Styx machine with finger pressed firmly on the butt-trigger.

On the positive ledge, there's this hilarious part in "The Water" (a song that rips off both "Close To The Edge" and Pink Floyd's stiff cynical brand of jazz funk) where Neal as troubled youth keeps shouting "FUCK YOU!" at his parents while the least aggressive music in history prances around "toughly" in the background. The cool thing about this part is that, as the first moment on the album that brought a smile to my face, it made me think I was enjoying it. It took me a moment to realize that I was actually laughing at how awkward and shitty-sounding it was!

There is one good song though -- perversely enough, it's the short one. Granted, you could fit "Judy Is A Punk" in there four times and still have room for The Who's "Miracle Cure," but on this album, 6:14 is like a cosmic blip passing through a cloud!

Dude, check out this semantic thing I just noticed. I'll form it as a riddle. Who could make it rain on Christmas Day? The CLOUD COULD! Dude, I TOTALLY just switched ONE LETTER! The CLOUD COULD! No hang on, check THIS shit out: The CLOUD COULD, COLUD! See that??? I just changed TWO LETTERS and now I'm answering the riddle as told to me by a man named Colud! The English language never ceases to fail to amaze me. Did you know that the word "boner" is a colloquialism meaning "mistake"? Speaking as a guy who once wore sweatpants while reading a Big Butts at the Rape Crisis Center, I'll have to agree!

But yeah, "On The Edge" has a beautiful chorus and pleasantly melodic lead guitar line. Skip most of the first 51 minutes and this is one fuckass of a great shit-covered testicle!

Reader Comments

I told you a year ago that this one sucked. Glad to see you agreed. I never could understand why hardcore SB fans think it's a masterpiece. I never understood why "Go the Way You Go" was so popular at SB concerts. It's nowhere near other Morse/Beard material. This album is totally forgettable. I agree wholeheartedly with the rating of three. Next . . .

It’s one thing to do a piss poor review but it’s worse that you never even listened to SB “The Light”

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Beware of Darkness - Metal Blade 1996
Rating = 5

Okay, it's one thing to write a song in tribute to George Harrison following his death, like Elton John did with "Empty Garden (Hey Hey George Harrison)," but it's something else entirely to name your whole goddamned ALBUM after a George Harrison song -- a full SIX YEARS before he left this mortal coil (and who WOULDN'T have gotten sick of Ivo Watts' bullshit? But enough record company president humor, heh heh! Oh wait, one more -- What's the difference between David Geffen and Greg Louganis? Six inches, then none, then about five, then none, then five and so on for about twenty minutes.). But Spock's Beard has done just that! "Beware Of Darkness," as every person worth their salt is well aware, is a world-famous George Harrison song off of his best-selling Leon Russell And The Shelter People LP. But not only do Spock's Beard COVER the song -- they turn over their whole goddamned album title to it! WHY? Why would you do that? Why? Somebody tell me why! I mean, it was one thing for me to release that five-disc box set entitled All Of Mark Prindle's Things Must Pass because everybody already knows about my digestive problems. But Beware Of Darkness!? For that to have occurred, somebody must have slipped somebody else a mickey, in my opinion.

A Mickey DOLENZ, that is! HA AHHA HHAH! HA!

This album is definitely less embarrassing than the debut, maybe because the new keyboardist is sort of a Japanese Rick Wakeman to the first album's Tony Kaye, but the singer is still too loud in the mix, making the music really hard to take seriously (corny big '80s pop!). So let's see - Dave Meros's bass tone and style of playing IS Chris Squire's. Alan Morse's "Chatauqua" is a beautiful Spanishy classical acoustic guitar tune so recognizably "influenced" that it might as well be called "Mood For A Beard." The new keyboardist jams on the Hammond Organ and Mellotron, two instruments possibly enjoyed by many of Yes's fine keyboardists. And don't even get me STARTED on drummer Nick D'Virgilio! (Because I don't know anything about drums -- they're made out of wax paper and guano, right?)

Neal Morse's pop songwriting has gotten stronger; some bits of "The Doorway" are really truly great, the anthemic "Waste Away" sounds like an adult contemporary hit and the harmony vocals in the chorus of "Walking On The Wind" should be studied by college students everywhere as they pursue their Ph.D.s in Recognizing Beautiful Singing. But the generic "progressive" parts just aren't necessary. The band constantly ruins perfectly enjoyable straightforward songs by cramming in ill-fitting synthesizer washes, dramatic acoustic breaks and speedy syncopated organ/guitar/bass/drums STOMP-BLAP-BLEEPLE-BLAP bits that -- though they DO keep the band from turning into Survivor -- drag the listener's focus too far away from the band's real strengths. PRETTY POP MELODIES FOR OLD PEOPLE AND NERDS. But at least they don't sound like a complete joke anymore!

Which reminds me of a hilarious complete joke I just made up. What did the racist Southerner say to the Mexican towel salesman?

I don't know, probably something about using the towels to dry off his "wet back." Or something about "Spic and Span"; not sure how you would get to that punchline though.

Dammit, that wasn't a complete joke. Wait a minute.... What the?

Well, no WONDER! There's a MONKEY chewing on my BRAIN! Get the heck off my head, you darned monkey!

Reader Comments

All that and you managed to not mention the most interesting track on the thing, "Thoughts." I absolutely love the manic vocal thing from hell. "The Doorway" is fantastic. It's better than most of Yes's anthems. This album also has the distinction of being one of the last projects ever completed by the late Kevin Gilbert. He was in the middle of his downward spiral during the recording of this thing, and you can hear it. Whatever madness didn't get thrown into his swansong "The Shaming of the True" bled into this thing. And after he died, Spocks Beard drummer Nick DiVirgilio went in with a couple of other guys to finish "Shaming of the True," and he keeps it alive as a live performance piece ever couple of years at Progfest, so these two albums do kinda go hand in hand for some of us. I'd have given it a seven myself.

phairphunk@yahoo.com (Jason Phair)
Chautauqua was written/performed by Neal Morse, not Al, you farkwad.

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The Kindness Of Strangers - Metal Blade 1998
Rating = 8

I have always depended on The Kindness Of Strangers to be the best Spock's Beard CD on the market. Less overblown and Broadwayish than the previous two releases, these seven tracks tone down the progressive cliches to bring calm pop melody to the FORE! (*hurls golf ball at baby carriage*) Sure, they still play some really intricate breaks here and there, but never in an intrusive way that ruins the flow of the music. I tried everything I could to hate this album, including dipping the album into gasoline and replacing my stereo needle with a lit match, but even as I lay there in the burn ward, I couldn't stop thinking about how great songs like "Harm's Way" and "The Good Don't Last" were. Finally I had to admit that I would really like it if it was a new Yes album, so why discriminate against Spock's Beard just because they're a bunch of retarded Jewish women?

These songs are understated, well-composed adult pop -- and by "adult," I don't mean that they're full of fart noises and the word "snatch" [except for the song "The Good Don't Last (When You Toot In Some Broad's Snatch)"] -- I mean that the soothing mellotron washes, gentle piano flourishes, acoustic guitar jangledy-jingles, electric progresso-guitar, high-pitched electric piano brapps and big pop star vocals cannot and MUST not appeal to young people, lest young people become old before their time. Young people should be listening to youth music like The White Strokes and The Hivines. Spock's Beard sound like Yes and The Moody Blues at age 55. It's okay for ME to like it because I'm 30 and cannot be trusted, but young people? Not unless they're real real wimpy, man. I guess it would be okay for girls to like them, because the music's pretty effeminate. But let's remove ourselves from this topic because I don't want to offend any fruitypie little boys who think Spock's Beard are "hot tits."

There seems to be a lot more repetition and less veering off into unnecessary prog breaks in these songs. And there are great hooks all over the place, played on all assortments of sundry instruments. Big pounding drums. Fake string washes courtesy of Ryo "The Mellotron Maniacal Man" Okumoto. Wonderful guitar/bass riffs, piano breaks -- and it's POP! The band seems tighter and more confident and, especially in the long tracks, the songs just seem to flow out of their essence, growing, building and becoming wonderful in the absence of jarring show-offy breaks. So what do you get? 10-minute pop songs with gallons of beautiful instrumental passages.

The coolest thing is that the songs sound honestly INTELLIGENT, a facet of the band that didn't come across very strongly on the first two records. By this point, it really feels like they know how to take a few different pieces and create a fantastic seamless and original song out of them, rather than haphazardly throwing together a bunch of parts that have nothing to do with each other.

Regardless, that's still Steve Howe's reverby guitar tone in the middle of "Flow." And that bass/piano intro to "Cakewalk On Easy Street" is still a simplified version of "Long Distance Runaround." "Spock's Beard"? More like "Yes's Yes," if you ask me! Heh heh heh.

Yeah, that was a good one. I'm gonna have to add that to my act, maybe right after my infamous "I like black people, but I hate niggers and Puerto Ricans" routine.

Reader Comments

Well, it IS the most *accessible* of the Beard's output. "June" is one of the best singalong numbers ever recorded. And I'm kinda surprised you didn't mention how "All Good People" it is. Although my favourite moment on this record has always been the "phoenix rising" section of "Harm's Way." That little ELP moment is what made me a Spocks Beard fan on the spot. I'd have given it a nine, but eight is cool too. "Flow" does drag on a bit.

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Day For Night - Metal Blade 1999
Rating = 7

Before we conduct our roundtable discussion of this 1999 release by Spock's Beard, let me first make sure that you're on the right site. Are you absolutely POSITIVE that you didn't intend to dial up www.markpringle.com? Because if you're looking for quality home construction, you're in the wrong place. I've never even SEEN a hammer, let alone know how to use one, so if you think I'm going to build a home for you and your family, let's get something straight once and for all: I need payment FIRST. That way, when it becomes obvious that I'm too spastic to nail two boards together, I can still go to expensive dinners with royalty while you and your family sleep in a tent in front of an unfinished pile of crap. So remember, if it's homebuilding excellence you want, Mark's Record Reviews is the Key to your Nighttime Success!

Now back to Gayfer Night by Spock's Beard. Well, it's a lot like my favorite novel, Richard Scarry's Filthiest Sex Romp Ever starring Stiff Worm. It's along the same lines as the preceding release, but less consistent. A lot of the melodies seem more obvious than moving - more predictable than intelligent. And come on, do you honestly think ANYONE in the world can hear the verse of the title track without singing Faith No More's "Faster Disco" over it? Oh please - get real! Who's burying their head in the sand NOW?

Let's give a quick run-through of the tracks, since I haven't done that yet on this page. I will actually recreate for you my EXACT NOTES on this LP, to give you both a bit of insight into what it actually sounds like AND a behind-the-scenes peek into the critical process of a genius like Mark Prindle, whom I met once in a San Francisco piss club.

"Day For Night" - Keyboard intro (nice!) into Yessy keyboard line (sounds like a part on Tales a little bit) into normally pop. Very pretty verse! Corny chorus sorta (Spin Doctors funky). Too long for its simplicity.
"Gibberish" - Tony Kaye-sounding keys. "Leave It"-style overlapping vocal stuff. Okay.
"Skin" - Pretty pop chorus, reminiscent of the Talk era of Yes. Nice keyboard hook, kinda new wavey, sharp edges.
"The Distance To The Sun" - Classical acoustic owe-like intro. Very mysterious, beautiful guitar/piano. Dark melodic vox. I don't like the vocal melody. They sound like they're on a soap opera. But piano and guitar are dark, nice!
"Crack The Big Sky" - Bass solo sorta in beginning, into pop. Sax break w/ ugly wah guitar, then mellotron/flute w/ his big vocals... has some nice parts and some dull parts.
"The Gypsy" - Nice Hammond organ/guitar 2-chord riff. Dark-sounding. He gets arrested... Like a darker McCartney song in places? Speeds up into weird time signature later in the song. Cool droning tune! Mellotron!
"Can't Get It Wrong" - Violin intro into piano pop. Very pretty chorus - this song reminds me of an ELO ballad! ("Can't Get It Outta My Head!") Very pretty symphonic breaks too! Drums come in second verse. What a pretty little ballad!
"The Healing Colors Of Sound Pt. 1" - Distorted guitar, bass breaks, synths - EXTREMELY Yes-like construction to this intro. ("Heart of the Sunrise" rip) Nice acoustic guitar part once it gets going though! And happy piano.
"My Shoes" - Piano and singing. "You'd like to be in my shoes, wouldn't you?" Gentle guitar line. Nice tentative chord sequence, nicely chosen! Resembles emotional confusion. Pretty resolution too!
"Mommy Comes Back" - Really lame "hard rock" with "funky bass" and ugly wah guitar crap. Macho vocals. Terrible song!
"Lay It Down" - Very gentle, pretty - piano, guitar, nice! Pop
"The Healing Colors Of Sound" - Nice pop gentleness, not amazing but ok.
"My Shoes (Revisited)" - Beautiful chorus again.

That's what the album sounds like. In fact, those weren’t notes at all - they were lyrics! The whole album is just a guy with a thick Southern accent talking about how his album would sound if he had any instruments. Don’t ask me why it came out under the name “Spock’s Beard” because I haven’t gotten that far in my lie yet.

(four intensive days of concentration pass)

You see, it came out under the name “Spock’s Beard” because the guy at the record pressing plant took a poop in the tape reel.

Spock's Beard is one of those bands like Yes or The Moody Blues who are at their best when pursuing beautiful harmonies, mellotron washes and emotional melodies. When they try to create aggression or dischord, it just winds up embarrassing everybody. Because not every band can kick ass like Genesis do in "Land Of Confusion."

Reader Comments

Goodbye Yes, hello Beatles. I swear, the last 20 minutes of this thing are an Abbey Road tribute. And Morse is a Beatles fanatic. Don't take my word for it, a year after this album, Neal Morse's OTHER band, Transatlantic, recorded a number entitled "Suite Charlotte Pike" which when performed live had certain segments replaced with parts from the Beatles "Abbey Road" medley. And then this year, he formed the Beatles cover band, Yellow Matter Custard with members of Dream Theater, Racer X, and ELO. So we know Morse is a Beatles fanatic. Which brings me back to how Abbey Road the last 20 minutes of this album are. Honestly, isn't "Mommy Comes Back" the little brother of "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window?" My favourite track on this one is "Skin." However I've gotta say that "Gibberish" is probably the least interesting of the whacked out vocal counterpoint numbers the Beard puts on every album.

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Don't Try This At Home: Live - Metal Blade 2000
Rating = 7

2 songs from Kindness of Bangers and basically 9 from Day = Night. Who cares? This is live, whoopee-do. It is exactly what you'd expect. No point in buying it. Let me explain something, asshole. This is a world wherein you have decisions. Yet I'm not beating my wife, am I? No, I'm not. Nor am I losing my job (already did that). You know what I need? I need Christ in my life. To wash my dishes and stuff. Sweep every once in a while. I'm filled with hate tonight. The Indians deserved to die. And so do animals. Hookers have big iauwr. People in positions of power are greedy assholes. MURDER THEM. This live CD is pretty good. I'm wearing a coat indoors, and Domino's should be here soon. My Doggy rules. He is God. Edie Brickell once sang, "Religion is the smile on a dog." That's because when a dog smiles, you think, "There must be some God who created this wonderful being." EAT SHIT.

I didn't mean that. The Law, the Universe - it's all a mystery that you just have to avoid until you die and it's no longer an issue. Buy some albums (not this one), take it easy, hang out with nice people who like you, and somehow deal with the fact that our entire lives are protected by corruption. They are. They likely always will be. Politics IS corruption. But that's how it always will be, in order to protect us from running out of natural resources and such. This CD doesn't need anything said about it because it's live. Good performance, good recording, but just buy the last two albums and you have all the songs plus more. They skipped the first two CDs, but that's just as well since they weren't very good. "I can feel no sense of measure/No illusion as we take/Refuge in one man's leisure/Breaking down the dreams we maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake ------ ReAL!" That's a GREAT Spock's Beard song called "Gibberish"! Way to go, Spock's Beard! Way to create something ALL YOUR OWN!!!!

Reader Comments

The problem with this album is that they tried to copy that sick marketing ploy that Genesis pulled 5 years earlier: releasing TWO live albums from the same show seperately. They recorded a show in Holland. Then this album was released, containing all the "Day For Night" and "Kindness of Strangers" material. The other one was entitled "Don't Try This at Home Either." It contained all the "Beware of Darkness" and "The Light" material. Unfortunately, it went out of print about five minutes after being released. The good news is that they released the entire show on DVD last year. It's a great show, when you get to see the entire thing. However, this little cd that you're reviewing here doesn't quite cut it. Get the dvd instead.

You really are not a nice person. How’s that?

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V - Metal Blade 2000
Rating = 7

Ahhh remember that kickass miniseries V with the aliens and shit? Ahhh now you're lulling me into consciousness. How about The Aliens Are Coming, where that dude from Barney Miller has to hold the light book up to his face or he loses all his energy? Ahh yeah. And Dark Night Of The Scarecrow? "Bubba didn't do it! Bubba didn't do it!" See, NOW we're talking off the same wavetime! And Bug? With those big fuckin roaches that set everything on fire? See, people are stupid who think there are no good movies except Easy Rider and Allan Qautermain And The Lost City Of Gold. Well, times are CHANGING, mack! Wait a minute, what the - I don't run a movie review site!!!!

(*panickedly erases five-thousand page masters thesis on Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever*)

Me and you, we dig music. That's why we're here, after all! God sent us down to please our ears with the musical tones of mortal man, such as Snork's Bubble. Snork's Bubble's latest CD (if I pretend that I wrote these reviews three years ago) is V. It definitely has a darker soul than the previous two albums, with the Bubble going out of their way to ROCK HARD AND MEAN! (though basically wimpy, they're at least LOUD about it!) Looking elsewhere into the progressive rock canon, one finds oneself reminding one's self of one's copy of King Crimson's Red during such bitter fuzzed-out smash distortion guitar gritters as "Revelation" and "Thoughts (Part II)." "Revelation" is TOTAL "Fallen Angel" in spirit and tonality. And it kicks Robert Fripp's ASS! (or WOULD, if that huge pole wasn't lodged up there, blocking the way of "Revelation"'s foot)

But if you're into it for the prettiness, don't find yourself fretting. The album as a whole isn't a complete goodbye to romance - Mr. Morse presents some very pretty vocal melodies here and there, and gorgeous piano/mellotron moments are to be enjoyed for all children here today. Just not as often. And with too many mediocre parts between them. Nobody needs fake horn solos or faux Spanish/Mexican mariachi taco music or horrendously out-of-place electronica-funk. Nobody needs these things when they get in the way of the otherwise beauteous gorgeo pop melodies of "At The End Of The Day," "Goodbye To Yesterday" and the 27-minute situation comedy "The Great Nothing" (starring Jack Klugman).

That's my attitude towards Spock's Beard right there in a shell of nuts: They have the "chops" (that's a professional musician's trade term meaning "the sides or capes at the mouth of a river, channel, harbor, or bay; as, the chops of the English Channel") and melodic knowhow to make one's soul soar with the harmonic majesty of spiritual glee, but they far too often overburden their songs with too many nondescript passages that just make you want the GOOD part to come back. Why can't they just lay their burden down and walk through Heaven's gate? That's what Michael Landon did, and look how happy he is! He took the Highway to Heaven and now he's balling Hillary Rodham Clinton!

Oh shit, I wasn't supposed to tell you that. Guess I really AM the worst agent in the CIA! Heh heh heh.

(The real Hillary Rodham Clinton died in 1994 and was replaced by a big Tamagotchi)

Reader Comments

Yes, I DO remember that miniseries. I have both the dvd sets and watch it again from time to time. When I was six years old, I thought Faye Grant was just the hottest fucking girl on earth. Now she's married to the guy that plays the preacher on that wretched WB show. Anywho, about the Spocks Beard album: I think this one is probably their best. "At the End of the Day" is pretty much the title track to "Day For Night" rewritten as to be listenable. "Revelation" is a ripoff of Marillion's "Chelsea Monday." "Thoughts pt 2" which has nothing to do with the original, is great. Love the vocal thing, love the bass solo, love the Yes "Love Will Find A Way" string bit, and of course the extremely cynical lyrics. "The Great Nothing" probably should have been the title of the album. It takes up almost a half hour, and is the definitive and best of the Beard's anthemic numbers. That "One note timeless . . . " swell towards the end is just one of the most emotional bits of music I've heard in the last 10 years.

njames@nustats.com (Nathan James)
if you took your review of the first album and made it the review for 'v' we would be in 100% agreement here. 'v' is the only spocks beard record ive heard, im a prog rock fan, i like overblown and complicated, but i think this band completely sucks. at least judging from what everyone says is their best album. i listened 3 times-deemed it crap of the 2nd to lowest order, did the same thing with the flower kings compilation the same friend who lent me 'v' made me listen to, and probably listened to something cool immediately afterward to correct the negative place these two crappy bands put me in. if those earlier records suck worse than 'v' then thank you for the reviews, i shall stay far away. is there any band labeled 'neo-prog' that is worth my time? im leaning toward not, so until one of these bands like SB or flower kings can compete with miriodor, thinking plague, or even bon jovi and/or barry manilow i will have to be embarassed to be a prog fan i guess.

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Snow - Metal Blade 2002
Rating = 5

(Please note: When I said nice things about this album in the introduction to my Neal Morse interview, I had only taken one listen to a one-disc sampler that Metal Blade sent me. It wasn't until 15 months later that I received a copy of the entire double-disc set and got a feel for what it's really like. Hence the following review!).

Jesus Crap, Jesus Crap, Everywhere you turn, it's just more and more Jesus Crap! Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy Christmas as much as the next guy and Lord knows that when my stomach hurt really bad once a couple years ago, I asked God to make it stop, but to be that stupid EVERY DAY? Now don't get me wrong -- I know I'm being unnecessarily vicious to the Christians. On a scale of worst people in the world to best people in the world, they're probably in the middle, or even slightly leaning towards "best" a tiny bit. But there's just something cultic and grotesque about them. As a friend of mine once put it, "I just lose a lot of respect for a person when I find out that they're religious." And that's the key, really. It's not that Christians are any worse than followers of any other faith -- it's just that I was RAISED around Christians, so when I think "religion" and "assholes," I immediately associate both terms with Christians.

I only mention this because Neal Morse wrote Snow following his conversion to Born-Again Pisstianity. And it SHOWS. It's of course an obvious moral tale, in which a young albino man with special powers (or should that be "POWDER"S? HA HHAHAH! YEAH!! PLAGIARISM CITY!!) moves to that Satanic den of nonstop sex and opium NYC and IMMEDIATELY falls to the dark path (to the excruciatingly Christian faux-tough-guy decadent funk rock of "Welcome To NYC"), then has to find his way back to the light of God (no no - the CHRISTIAN God). It's typical Christian tract fear-mongering, with some of the worst lyrics I've ever heard in my life ("The devil's got me by the throat/I'm going down - that's all she wrote!," "Now you are a young man - so filled with anger!," etc).

But to be fair, Neal told me PERSONALLY that the lyrics weren't as important as the music. Unfortunately, most of the music's not very good either. It seems like they're so tied down to trying to fit the lyrics that they can't escape bland balladry, misguided urban humiliation and constant reprises of the same three or four musical themes over and over again. Neal's still capable of the occasional winger, zinger and humdinger (pretty acoustic "Stranger In A Strange Land," terrific melody rocker "I'm Sick," Moody Blues popper "Open Wide The Flood Gates," beautifully harmonized "Wind At My Back," darling piano lolligagger "Looking For Answers," interesting repetitive hard rock riffer "I'm Dying," a couple others), but it's quite disenchanting to hear such a high percentage of bottom-of-the-monkey-box show tunes on what would be his final foray with the band before God appeared to him in a vision and said, "Snow blows - write more songs about ME! ME ME ALL ME!!!!"

The end is pretty funny though - Eddie Van Halen mistakes Snow for a huge lump of cocaine and snorts him up into his nose. The final song "Wind At My Back" fades out with Snow walking down the street covered in snot, masturbating.

Reader Comments

What's this about Jesus everywhere? I think God gets mentioned by name twice in this entire album: once in "Stranger in a Strange Land" and once in "I Will Go." That's it. I camped outside of a local cd store to get this album at midnight when it was released back in August of 2002. I think it was well worth it. "Open Wide the Floodgates," "Long Time Suffering," and "Wind at my Back" are just mind-boggling. I also love how he reprises the piano solo from "Love Beyond Words" as a full band instrumental in "All is Vanity." BTW, if you get the three disc version, there's an excellent cover of "South Side of the Sky." Now, as to that little matter of God telling Neal to bail on the Beard: I thought it was pretty kooky too . . then I heard the masterwork that Neal recorded upon leaving the Beard. I don't know if the guy upstairs told him to or not, but it kicks so much ass that I could find it plausable. THAT'S how good the new Morse album is. What Neal did was take Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater, Kerry whats-his-face from Kansas, and the Nashville Symphony, and write what is essentially a better version of "Snow." However, if the scant religious content of "Snow" put you off, don't bother with "Testimony." It's much much much more present there. But musically, "Testimony" kicks Snow's scrawny white ass up and down. (and on the three disc version of Testimony, he does a cover of "Tuesday Afternoon")

Jesus rap huh?

Remember that when the heat gets too hot there you useless prick

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Feel Euphoria - InsideOut 2003
Rating = 2

Neal's gone, the drummer's singing, they've brought in two additional songwriters and they STILL can't make an album good enough for Metal Blade. The Yes influence is totally gone, aside from some wavery noisy air graffiti reminiscent of Patrick Moraz's Relayer bombast. It's been replaced by contempt, ugliness, nothing remotely melodic in any emotional sense, nothing even close to intelligent in an artistic sense, and several attempts to keep up with times that Spock's Beard were never intended to be a part of. To put it bluntly, at the risk of coming across as overly critical and even mean-spirited, Feel Euphoria isn't quite as good as their best album, The Kindness of Strangers.

New singer (former and current drummer, current acoustic and some electric guitarist, former and current percussionist and current loopist) Nick D'Virgilio's voice isn't as big-hearted and goofy as Neal Morse's, but it's unfortunately pretty undescriptable. The music features some moody boringness, a little Rushy hard rock, some bad modern alternative and lots of unhappy, sickening, pessimistic noises. Kinda like Madonna-level total crap electronica, with touches of sub-Alice In Chains anger grunge. And the songwriting is faceless, bodyless and all filled with feet. No prog, cliched pop and fewer hooks than you'd find on a golf club.

But on the positive side, I finally got my nuts unglued from that anthill! So fathers, get your mothers on Depo-Provera -- Mark Prindle's testicles are back in action!

And this time, they're filled with ANTS!

Reader Comments

Ok, before you complain about them bringing in two additional songwriters, you should know that one of those songwriters is the guy who maintains their website. He's a friend of the band, not some schmuck the record label shoved down their throats. And the drummer's not that bad a singer. He sang lead on two tunes on Snow ("Looking For Answers" and "Carrie") and I didn't hear anyone complaining. Granted, he's trying a little too hard to be "menacing" here, and should probably stick to his higher registered Italian love ballad voice. But we'll let them worry about that on the next album. This album more than anything has them trying to find their post-Neal sound, and I think they've, for the most part, accomplished that. They seem to have traded in the quirkiness for psychadelia, and I can't wait to see where they go next with it. Having said that, they've also spent too much time hanging out with too many of their Neo-prog contemporaries. "The Bottom Line" doesn't sound like a Spocks Beard song: it sounds like a Porcupine Tree song. It belongs on a Porcupine Tree album. "Onomatopeia" belongs on a Flower Kings album, as does the title track. But there are TWO numbers that truly do sound like older Spocks Beard, the psychadelic Pink Floyd Ummagumma era drugfest "East of Eden West of Memphis" and the sidelong "A Guy Named Sid." Those two songs alone make me consider this a worthwhile Beard effort. BTW, a TWO????? This is more like a six or seven. I can't believe you'd put this album lower than "The Light." Ouch.

Spocks Beard is one of the only intelligent, song-oriented, full-bodied bands on the face of this god forsaken planet! What do you guys consider good? And, after you embarrass yourself with the answer to that question - maybe you should also think long and hard about the state of the music industry today. All same-same bullshit. Repetitive claptrap. Go ahead...compare anything to one of the only bands attempting to be MINDLESS ROBOT MUSICIANS. Good luck and get your hearing checked pronto. Better yet - seek help. The world needs more creative help these days. You're nothing but a bunch of followers. Get some balls, dudes.

I think Feel euphoria proves that They dont need neal..even though neal is a master mind. john boeghold did not even write most of the lyrics .he just threw a few ideas in there that they didnt neccessarily need.F E is quite possibly more ambitious than any of their albums,along with octane.God told neal to leave just because god wanted FE and Octane ,and neal morses testimony and one to be possible...that was the way is was supposed to happen...But besides all of that crap.. Fact is not as existant and opinion.

Your dribblings that you pass off as humor show what a true moron you are and how little you know about music, especially PROG music

Let's make one thing very clear, Spock's Beard does not ape Yes - they ape early Genesis and Gentle Giant, or at least, they used to.

Yep, Neal is gone. And Spock's Beard is trying to plod along without him. I like this album actually. Some of these songs are great, some are just pure junk. I think NDV is a good enough writer of AOR/pop but nop one in SB can write an epic to save their souls, but that's to be expected because no one, and I mean no one, writes the epic like Neal Morse. Its hard to call the current incarnation of SB prog, because Neal took the prog with him when he left. Neal is a great composer, and an OK lyricist.

There have been two CDs released since this review was written and I wish I could report that things had improved, but they're about the same. On the plus side, I'd say that all three Neal-less albums have some great tunes on them...and some real duds. They're just not the prog band they used to be, so what's their fanbase to do? Start liking arena rock again?

I kinda root for these guys, but if I wasn't already a fan, I'd write this version of SB off as a Toto tribute band. The music they make now isn't how they got a contract with Metal Blade in the first place. If it weren't for their reputation in prog circles, they wouldn't have a contract.

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Octane - InsideOut 2005
Rating = 3

"Has plenty of flair and verve!" - All-Music Guide

"There is a whole new band in town and it rocks!" - AlternativeZine.com

"I tell you, my first impression of this recording was, Wow!" - Buzzle.com

"Gosh, have I enjoyed listening to each little bit of music on the album!" - Concrete Web

"I can honestly say that I love this album!" - Dutch Progressive Rock Page

"A fine collection of songs!" - Hairless Heart Herald

"Ryo Okumoto shines on this programmatic outing, with plenty of Mellotron, Clav, Hammond, and a tasty array of synths, both old and new!" - Keyboard Magazine

"If you want to hear musicians at their prime, Beard's 'Octane' nicely hits the spot!" - MusicTap

"The Beard soldiers on admirably doing what they do best...creating music that they obviously love and CDs that I can't stop listening to!" - The Phantom Tollbooth

"This band has started its second childhood; apparently they have switched from normal gasoline to super!" - Prog-Nose

"It's on par with The Who's 'Who's Next,' Rush's 'Moving Pictures,' Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of The Moon,' and Kansas' 'Song For America'!" - ProgressiveWorld.net

"It didn't take too long for me to figure out that Spock's Beard's eighth album was highly interesting!" - RevelationZ

"This album is a must-have acquisition!" - Rock Reviews

"This is good stuff!" - Sea Of Tranquility

"An incredible epic!" - Studio M Live

"Like a freshly emerged butterfly, this veteran quartet sounds like it's just beginning its heady journey!" - Washington Post

"I just relieved my bowels on a homeless man and it sounded like Zeppelin IV compared to this." - Mark Prindle

"The singer sounds like Bon Jovi with his stupid hoarse sexy voice, and every song is so overdramatic it makes you want to punch somebody in the kidneys." - Kram Eldnirp

"It's this big stupid rock opera with lyrics like 'I was just a boy/A rough and restless child,' 'A weekend father - absent!/Searching dungeons for some discipline,' and 'I'm drifting on the water/Far out from the land/Movin' through my memories/As I try to understand.' Where'd this guy learn to write - the Pete Townshend School Of Shitty Lyrics?" - Lamp Drinker

"Kicks as much ass as Styx and Survivor - put together!" - Mr. Pide

"It's like they took the finest aspects of Yes, Rush and Jethro Tull, and replaced them with power ballads and show tunes" - Prind Markle

"Perhaps the most concise and accurate summation of Octane is as follows: the song that sounds like Foreigner is the best song on the album" - Ol' Prind

"I can honestly say, without reservation, that people who like this album shouldn't be allowed to hold jobs or marry." - M.D.P.

"It's still better than Feel Euphoria." - Mark's Record Reviews

"Imagine Sarah Palin as an album. Now slam her onto a turntable and jam the needle through her heart, the cunt." - Prindle Record Reviews By Fans The Worldround

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Spock's Beard - InsideOut 2006
Rating = 4

I've got so many things on my mind right now -- the economic crisis (The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Chris Dodd, warned on Good Morning America today that the United States could be "days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system"), the revelation that the reduced violence in Iraq has been due not to the much-lauded 'trooop surge,' but due to ethnic cleansing that preceded the surge ("Our findings suggest that the surge has had no observable effect, except insofar as it has helped to provide a seal of approval for a process of ethno-sectarian neighborhood homogenization that is now largely achieved," the study group wrote in their report), the First Dude (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpvPizuq4-Y), Sir Ben Kingsley paying tribute to Ian MacKaye (http://meanmag.net/?p=197), my personal fatigue and exhaustion -- that I just can't in good conscience review this Spock's Beard album right now. Not that I reviewed the last one either, but this time it's for real. So I'll hand over the reins to legendary funnyman Don Rickles.

Hey, hockey pucks!!!! Who picks your clothes - Stevie Wonder?? I'm here to review the latest release by prog-rock dummies Schlock's Beard, led by singerman Nick D'Virgilio. Crazy thing about Nick -- when you enter a room, you have to kiss his ring. I don't mind, but he has it in his back pocket!

I tell ya what, when these guys step away from corny show-tune melodramatic fruit-prog, some of their '70s-ish hard rock isn't bad at all. I mean, Eddie Fisher married to Elizabeth Taylor is like me trying to wash the Empire State Building with a bar of soap!

Spic's Broad obviously put a lot of time and effort into this release, and you'd be amazed by how many surprising influences pop up on this album. Sure, there's the usual Styx and Asia cheese, but I'd swear that some of these songs are specifically intended to resemble '70s artists as unexpected and diverse as Red-era King Crimson ("Skeletons at the Feast"), Joe Walsh ("Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go"), Bad Company ("The Slow Crash Landing Man"), Mother's Finest ("Wherever You Stand"), Santana ("Here's A Man"), Supertramp ("They Know We Know") and even Billy Squier ("Is This Love?"). You know Billy Squier -- he's Perry Como's kid by another marriage!

Aside from the truly rocking instrumental "Skeletons at the Feast" (which also resembles Deep Purple and Emerson Lake and Palmer at various points), I don't know that any of these songs are actually 'good' in the traditional sense. Nonetheless, it's a real gas to hear these over-earnest AOR proggers cut loose with some noxious '70s fist-pumping guitar crunch, anachronistic funk lickin' and pessimistic blues-rock. It's like I said to Frank Sinatra, "Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody!" You know what my name was back stage? It was "Out of the way, Jew!"

It's not all crinkles and beans though. If you know Schlock's Beard, you know very well that they can't stay away from Sci-Fi geek music, and this album is no exception. Parts of "With Your Kiss" sound like Jane's Addiction doing a Kansas cover, "Hereafter" is an Elton John ballad straight out of a Disney cartoon, and "Dreaming In The Age Of Answers" bases an entire song around the first two chords of "Don't You Forget About Me." It's like I said to Sammy Davis Jr., "How about some watermelon to go with that tie?" I'll never forget his response. He turns to me and says, "You're not funny at all."

It's no surprise to me that the initials for "Spock's Beard" are "S.B.," because listening to their music makes me cry "O!" Spock's Beard? More like Hockey's Puck! It's like the time I broke Johnny Carson's cigarette box. Remember George Burns? He was so old, his wrinkles had hemorrhoids! It's like I said to Steve and Eydie, "Hey hockey pucks!" Excuse me sir, what is your nationality? I know, it's a big word. And you're sitting next to the Mexican? What about the Iranian? Oh, here we go with the Frenchman! What's that, a Chinaman? Who's got the Irishman? You're all a bunch of Indians! Someone stole my Canadian. Over there's an Arabian! What are you, a Russian? What happened to the the German? My next door neighbor's so black, you can't see him at night!

The best thing about this album is that, I mean, Lawrence Welk married to Fern Renner is like me trying to fix a broken carburetor with a can opener! Who picks that guy's clothes - Ray Charles?? Frank Sinatra used to call me "Bullet Head." I don't mind kissing his ass, but he keeps it on his ring finger! Eisenhower is the current president of the United States. I mean, the Washington Senators were so bad last year, you'd think they misstook "home run" for "dome bun"! Tommy Dorsey's a fag.


Reader Comments

I don't know anything about Spock's Beard, but that Ben Kingsley thing was awesome. Shit, now I'm going to have to go re-read all your Minor Threat reviews.

All your stream-of-conscieniousness ramblings don't hide the fact that you've never heard this album, or any of the last two or three albums for that matter.

Actually, this album contains the best one-two punch in the first two tracks that have been on an SB album in a long time. As well written and as proggy as anything these guys have ever done...then it comes undone after that. Like I said before, they have become a modern day Toto. Generic AOR - competent, but boring.

Who actually wrote this rambling garbage? I'm talking about the idiotic, sophomoric review, not SB's great music, which would never sink so low as to actually respond to this crap. If you don't like great prog from the greatest neo-prog band in the world, so be it. You would probably tell me next that Chick Corea can't play piano or that Stravinsky didn't understand odd meters, or that Bach's well tempered clavier sucks, too. Interestingly, SB will stand the test of time. Your review will be mercifully relegated to the recycle bin of web history.

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X - Mascot 2010
Rating = 2

Although I understand their attempt to link this CD via Roman numerals to the earlier and far superior V album, I could've warned them beforehand that they were only aXing for trouble. What band has ever put an X in its album title without falling prey to Stink Fever? Iron Maiden's The X-Factor was the worst album in their entire awful catalog, and ZZ Top's XXX was three times worse! Furthermore, although I've never heard the X albums by Kylie Minogue, INXS or Def Leppard, it's been proven mathematically impossible for any of those artists to release a decent album so my rule stands.

Weighing in at 8 songs and 79 minutes, X is the most aggressively boring and overlong release in Spock's Beard's entire shitty post-Christian-Nut discography. But what's really interesting is that if you'd paid close attention to NBC's mid-'80s Thursday night line-up , you would have heard numerous references to it - over two decades early! Sound impossible? Well, take a look at these clips and you'll change your tune (preferably to one not on this album):

The Cosby Show

Episode 46: "Cliff Tells Theo Not to Take the Car"

Cliff Huxtable: "The sassafrassin' jassafrass."

Rudy: "Hey Vanessa, what's that music you're playing? It sounds like a cross between bland soft rock, bad tuff-rock and ELP at their fruitiest."

Vanessa: "Well, lil' sis, it's the new Spock's Beard album X!"

Theo: "Hey Dad, I took the car."


Rudy: "It's fucken dogshit is what it is, whore."

Family Ties

Episode 2: "Remembering Episode 1"

Alex P. Keaton: "Hey, Ma! Remember that time you got mad at me for being a Republican?"

Mom: "Of course I do, Alex. It seems like it was only yesterday."

(*screen wiggles, indicating flashback to earlier period*)

Mallory: "Mom! Alex put a poster of Richard Nixon on my wall!"

Mom: "Alex!"

Dad: "Hey Tina Yothers' character - what's that music you're playing? It sounds like Styx - in other words, an attempt to impress listeners with quote-unquote 'progressive' time signature changes and chord progressions, but possessing all the songwriting ability of a jar of mustard."

Tina Yothers' Character: "It's the new Spock's Beard album, X."

Alex: "1.21 GIGAWATTS!?"

Mom: "This music is making me turn gay."


Episode 141: "Alcoholism is Hilarious"

Sam: "Carla, mop up that puke."

Carla: "Stick it in a meat pie! Up your nose!"

Woody: "Hey Norm, what's that music you're playing? All the complex parts sound like Yes, but terrible. It's garbage like this that gives 'prog' such a bad name."

Kirstie Alley: "It's making me hungry."

Norm: "The only reason I can stand it is because I'm blacked out drunk."

Frasier: "Here, both of you. Snort this."

Night Court

Episode 63: "Female Bailiff Death Machine"

Harry: "Look, I'm juggling gavels!"

Selma: "Oh, Harry! You're cracking me (*dies*)"

Harry: "Look, I'm wearing googly eyeballs!"

Florence: "Ha ha h (*dies*)"

Christine: "Hey Mac, what's that music you're listening to? It sounds like a few melodic passages buried within acres of melodramatic, poorly-written garbage. Don't they realize it doesn't matter how fast they can play the changes if all the changes are awful?"

Mac: "Hey now, I realize that most of the record is unfathomably dull, but I really like that one song."

Bull: "The one where they cynically sing the names of all the people who paid them $200 to do so?"

Mac: "No, not that one."

Bull: "The one that uses The Wizard of Oz as an allegory for child molesting priests?"

Mac: "No."

Bull: "The one that uses 'The Emperors' New Clothes' as an allegory for politics, even though it already was an allegory for politics?"

Mac: "Ugh. No."

Bull: "The 17-minute epic that requires four titled sections just to tell a simple 'boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl' story?"

Mac: "Not that one, no."

Bull: "The other 17-minute epic, in which they keep repeating the same awful descending riff on about 50 different instruments in a desperate attempt to make it seem catchy like 'Heart of the Sunrise'?"

Mac: "Hell no!"

Bull: "The crazy fast instrumental that deteriorates into sleazy prog-funk?"

Mac: "No."

Bull: "The middle-of-the-road soft rocker that sounds like a cross between Mike & the Mechanics and Survivor before suddenly turning into a slow art-rock section so boring that it makes the first part seem positively ingenious by comparison?"

Mac: "Bull, you've now described every single song on the record except for the one I like."

Dan: "The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. Also, let's screw."

Hill Street Blues

Episode 36: "Getting the Blues on Hill Street"

Dennis Franz: "Hey."

Some Other Guy: "Hey, how's it going."

Dennis Franz: "I don't know, but this album blows."

Some Other Guy: "Yeah, it's usually not a good idea to keep your band going after the guy who writes all your songs quits."

Dennis Franz: "Wanna see my ass?"

Mark Prindle: "I've never seen a single episode of this show."

The News

News Guy: "Our top story tonight: Spock's Beard's new X CD has received a near perfect score from 18 different Amazon.com commentators. In related news, Amazon.com today heralded the massive success of its recent marketing outreach targeting the brain-damaged and incompetent."

Reader Comments

Marty Tripp
Mark, you are a complete douche. Funny as hell though! Luckily I am getting a kick out of your reviews, otherwise I'd have to find you and let Nick D'Virgilio shit down your throat...

Octane happens to be one of my favorite albums of all time. I am a HUGE Dream Theater fan...so sometimes I actually surprise myself by how much I enjoy this album. It does rock, and it does sound awesome. The intro is epic.

Feel Euphoria is almost as awesome. 'A Guy Named Sid' rocks...how can you deny that?! The distorted B3 organ...or whatever he's using there, is just sweet.

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